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January, 2006

I’m One Year Old and Thank Goodness for Sign Language

Happy, bright kids are using sign language Hello! I’m one year old and I have just seen a beautiful car go by. Let me tell you how interesting I find this car. I will sign to you the sign language sign for CAR with a big grin on my face. That way, I’ll be able to share this exciting discovery with you – a noisy car just went by – how exciting!

Oh – what’s Mommy saying and signing now? It’s a RED CAR. How cool. RED. If Mommy shows me that new sign RED a few more times, I think I’ll be able to use it whenever I want. We’ve just been playing the sign language software at So many interesting words there that I can use in my meaningful conversations with my Mommy.

When Mommy first heard about the activity of hearing parents signing with their hearing kids, she thought that it would delay my speech. She loved the idea of being able to communicate with me in sign language long before such communication would ever be possible with verbal speech. However, she did not want the joy of early, meaningful communication to come at the cost of delayed verbal speech. Then she read the research and instructions in the books “Baby Signs” by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn and “Sign With Your Baby” by Joseph Garcia. These researchers showed that using sign language with hearing infants actually accelerates verbal speech development.

I suppose that when you think about it, it makes sense. My brain is just exploding with growth and development at the moment. The more I learn, the more I can learn. I’ve been trying out my verbal apparatus for a while now, but it is not yet ready for the fine-tuned use necessary for verbal speech language. However, my hands are ready for sign language, and are able to actually engage in meaningful communication using sign language. Well, I’m sure this just turbo charges the development of the “human language” part of my brain. It’s a part of the brain that scientific research has shown to be activated whether verbal language or sign language is being used. No wonder that my group of signing babies will be speaking verbally ahead of any group of non-signing babies.

Hee hee! I just closed a door. It’s very clever of me to do that. Let me tell you about it. I will sign to you the sign language sign that means CLOSE A DOOR. Who cares about those theoretical aspects of signing with babies. This is just so much fun to do. I love doing what I can do. I learn new things and new skills every day. And I just love being able to “talk” about them with Mommy in sign language. I have been flapping my arms and legs around in order to express myself ever since I was born. Sign language is so natural for me.

My older siblings find sign language fun too. Whenever I’m sitting down watching fun, musical sign language videos that have been produced especially for me, I find that my older brothers and sisters join me. They find it fun to use not just another language, but a language in another “mode”, in the visual-spatial channel. This must be the ultimate when it comes to being bilingual. It feels like a secret, magical language to them.

We sit and watch videos made especially for hearing babies and children, to teach us sign language, from,, and

My Mommy is delighted that my older siblings are interested in using sign language. She has read the results of extensive research done by Marilyn Daniels, in her book “Dancing With Words”. She found that sign language has the power to significantly improve the reading and writing literacy skills of school age children.

Mommy and Daddy sometimes join us watching the signing videos. Sign language is the language of Deaf people, but my Mommy and Daddy are not deaf. So watching videos is an easy way for them to learn new signs to use with me.

Of course, my siblings and I remember sign language signs faster than our parents. Our brains are wired to pick up languages the way a sponge soaks up water. However, in spite of having old brains, my parents find that they can easily pick up sign language signs too. My Mommy is also learning new signs and how to use signs with me by reading a book on baby signing. I’m not reading those books. I’m too busy now. I have to go and close the rest of the doors in the house. Later, we might go to a baby signing class with other Mommies and small kids.

Well, it’s been great all this playing and communicating today, but I’m getting tired and hungry now. Thank goodness I can tell my Mommy in sign language that I want MILK and a COOKIE. After that, I want my TEDDY BEAR, in case I fall asleep, even though I will try not to fall asleep. Imagine if I didn’t have sign language to communicate these things I want. I’d have to sit there and cry a lot until these things magically appeared. I could go to the fridge door and cry, but my Mommy might give me some juice instead of the milk I want. When I want something, I have no patience to wait, you know. No wonder researchers have found that signing infants have less tantrums and more contentedness and confidence.

I try to say words verbally too, but Mommy doesn’t seem to be able to understand my clearly articulated verbal communication. I think that she will develop better verbal comprehension skills when she gets older. For now, Mommy is delighted to be able to use sign language in order to better understand us little people.

My Grandmother is so impressed with this signing stuff. She wonders how hearing people ever used to parent without it. She wants to start signing with me too. Mommy is explaining to her that she can go to on the Internet. Within a few minutes, she can be in front of a fun, interactive, signing software from, with me on her lap. Together, we can learn and practice new, useful signs.

Thank goodness for sign language. During those frustrating years when my parents' verbal comprehension skills are not so good, it allows me to communicate with my parents. I just love them knowing what's on my mind!

The author of this article, Emma Rath, is actually older than one year old, and is involved with the software – fun, educational, interactive software to teach sign language to hearing babies, children and their caregivers.

...parenting tip of the moment

There is a universal truth I have found in my work. Everybody longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is let somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.

quoted from Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers' Neigborhood", in "Parade" as quoted in
"Kids are worth it! Giving your child the gift of inner discipline"
by Barbara Coloroso, page 26

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